Nick Twemlow

of Iowa City, IA

Winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2013

The Twenty-four Complications


The life of the party slits its wrists. Its wrists
            slit their wrists. The wrist of the world
            wears a Patek Philippe Henry Graves

Supercomplication. Which is not a wristwatch but a pocket
            watch. Among its twenty-four complications
            is one for the hour in which you hang

yourself by your wedding tie and another that counts the number
            of people whose livers can no longer self-repair
            and have begun to eat themselves. The man

who commissioned the piece may or may not have lived      
            forever.  He may or may not have been part-owneer
            of an explosives company that may or may

not go by the name of Blackwater. You
            may or may not believe this, but when I was a boy
            all I wanted was to push a big red button.

Imagine a million crosshairs congregating on the last
            illegal alien on earth, who resembles the shape you               
            clock time in front of the bathroom mirror

re-imagining. Or the clock tower you climb
            as Charles Whitman did in Austin, Texas
            (it was not a clock tower), lugging

a duffel of guns and a hatred of the kind of muffled  
            conversation he always walked into
            in the rooms of the house he grew up in to hear.

Meanwhile Blackwater backpedals. Blackwater occupies
            the clock tower, killing time in the peculiar way time
            and money prepare you for. The thesis

statement is that privatizing the military
            privatizes the boredom of observing
            an alien people who busy themselves

with the rituals of the free market. Learn
            from the example of the markets in Jerusalem.
            The seventh complication

is a koan wrapped in an enigma. What are you doing?  
            We're innovating.

We haven't ideated that yet. Eight resembles the head
            of an amber fish, the body ripped away
            by a motherless shark. Nine accrues interest

in the leper colonies of the imagination
            (which may or may not exist, lyrically).
            Ten through seventeen take a few

bongers while watching The Wire on DVD. Eighteen
            is your father's will,
            which faded as the years passed

while burning a hole in his afterlife as the lawyers recited
            its damages to your family ten days after he poked
            a hole in the sky with his third eye, which, technically,

is the eighteenth complication.
            Nineteen is the dream in which you marveled
            at a child's art deco sand castle

while the lion paced a few feet away.
            Twenty was last century.
            Twenty-one occupies the analytic couch

your father fashioned out of chocolate glazed donuts. The next
            two slob the knob of the infinite
            40oz, dreaming in daiquiri, screaming

to the open field in a Whitmanic mania.
            Twenty-fourth complication
            of the Patek Philippe Henry Graves

Supercomplication is the server space of your next
            ten years, where dust compiles and Blackwater         
            offloads the epic we all had hoped one of us would write.

Timothy Liu on Nick Twemlow

Hard to believe there were over seventy books submitted to this year's Norma Farber First Book Award, many by presses that were new to me, including the publisher of this year's winning volume, Palm Trees by Nick Twemlow (Green Lantern Press). Reading Twemlow gives one a deep sense about what's exciting about the lyrical possibilities embodied not in just of a first book of poems but any book of poems published in 2012. Of course I was enticed by verbal savvy, consequential wordplay, cultural élan. Of course I value a poetics that does not eschew the personal over the political or vice versa. And of course, I needed the whole book to complete its arc without faltering. Skip the front and back matter. Put off reading the brilliant introduction by Robert Fernandez until after you have committed this "Damage Manual" to memory. This book seared my conscience, altered my sense of what it's like to go on . . .

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